VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI will receive hundreds of prominent artists from around the world at the Vatican this November in an effort to restore a historic "alliance" between the church and the arts.
The new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, arrived in Rome and said he was eager to help expand the "special relationship" between the United States and the Holy See.
Diaz, a 45-year-old Catholic theologian, arrived with his wife and four children at Rome's Fiumicino airport Aug. 27, six days after he was sworn in as ambassador in Washington. He was expected to present his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI at a ceremony later this summer.
"I look forward to the coming weeks as my family and I put down new roots in Rome. I will be honored to serve President (Barack) Obama and the American people in my new role, and it will be a unique honor to meet his holiness, Pope Benedict XVI," Diaz said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
"I welcome the opportunity to deepen and expand upon the special relationship that has evolved between the United States and the Vatican over the past 25 years of formal diplomatic ties," he said.
tVATICAN CITY -- A Vatican spokesman downplayed a report that major liturgical reforms are being considered by Pope Benedict XVI.
t"At the moment, there are no institutional proposals for a modification of the liturgical books currently in use," the spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini, said Aug. 24.
tHe was responding to a report that a document with proposed liturgical modifications, including a curb on the practice of receiving Communion in the hand, had been sent to the pope last April by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
tThe article, published by the newspaper Il Giornale, said the document was a first concrete step toward the "reform of the reform" in liturgy planned by Pope Benedict. It said the congregation proposed to promote a greater sense of the sacred in liturgy, recover the use of the Latin language in celebrations, and reformulate introductive parts of the Roman Missal to end abuses and experimentation.
tThe article said the worship congregation had voted on and approved the recommendations almost unanimously during its plenary session last March.
WASHINGTON -- With a roomful of theologians, college professors and presidents, political activists, leaders of various church organizations, and family and longtime friends looking on, Catholic theologian Miguel Diaz was sworn in as ambassador to the Vatican Aug. 21.
In a brief, invitation-only ceremony in the ornate Benjamin Franklin room at the State Department, Assistant Secretary of State Phil Gordon administered the standard governmental oath of office and supervised as Diaz signed an assortment of official papers.
The process of stepping into the job as ambassador concludes with Diaz's formal presentation of his diplomatic credentials to the Vatican.
Diaz, a professor at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict, both in Minnesota, is the first Hispanic and the first theologian to represent the U.S. at the Vatican. His predecessors have all come to the job with more extensive backgrounds in political activism or diplomacy.
Diaz was active in President Barack Obama's campaign, serving on his board of Catholic advisers and as a campaign representative at times, particularly with Spanish-language news media.
VATICAN CITY -- In a lengthy article, the Vatican newspaper said the U.S. and British governments had detailed information about the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jews during World War II, but failed to act for many months and even suppressed reports about the extent of the Holocaust.
The newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, contrasted Allied inaction with the quiet efforts undertaken by Pope Pius XII to save as many Jews as possible through clandestine assistance.
The article, published Aug. 13, reviewed historical information in support of an argument frequently made by Vatican experts: While critics have focused on Pope Pius' supposed "silence" on the Holocaust, little attention has been given to documented evidence that the U.S. and British governments ignored or minimized reports of extermination plans.
The article quotes heavily from the diary of Henry Morgenthau Jr., U.S. secretary of the treasury during the war, who said that as early as August 1942 administration officials "knew that the Nazis were planning to exterminate all the Jews of Europe."
Catholic theologian Miguel Diaz was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Aug. 4 as the ninth U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.
A professor of theology at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., and St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., Diaz is the first Hispanic to serve in the post.
Diaz issued a statement through St. John's University Aug. 5, saying he was grateful to the Senate for its vote and to President Barack Obama "for the confidence he has invested in me."
"I am honored to be given the responsibility of representing the people of the United States to the Holy See," he said in the statement posted on the Web site of St. John's University. "I very much appreciate the support of all those who have reached out to me and to my family with their prayers and best wishes during this process."
He also said he planned to move his family to Rome and present his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI as soon as possible. His wife, Marian, directs Companions on a Journey and CORAD: Heart Speaks to Heart at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University. The couple have four children.
Days after the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and President Obama at the Vatican, Washington insiders are pretty much in agreement: It was a significant success.
Looking back, it's clear the Holy See wanted the meeting. It had been known for some time that the president would be in Italy for the G-8 meeting and the Vatican wanted to take the opportunity to meet with the president.
Benedict had reached out early to Obama. In an unprecedented early move he congratulated the newly elected president shortly after his election rather than waiting for the more usual congratulatory message on the day of the formal inauguration in January. This was soon followed by another unprecedented contact. The president telephoned the pope.
The Holy See currently has a highly respected veteran Vatican diplomat heading its mission to the United States. Archbishop Pietro Sambi was one of the first diplomatic appointments by the pope. He had an excellent relationship with President George W. Bush and the Bush senior White house staff. Sambi is given credit for having managed the successful 2008 visit of the pope to the United States.
The meeting of the Holy Father with President Barack Obama has come and gone, and the Apostolic Palace is still standing. To be sure, the pope and the president were far from being on the same page on every subject. What two heads of state are? The Holy Father teaches that abortion is an intrinsically evil act that should never be permitted. President Obama sees abortion as a tragedy in every instance, which the law should seek to limit but not prohibit.
On this topic and a few others, they evidently agreed to disagree, not in polemical anger, but in a clear understanding that such issues are difficult ones in a pluralistic society, in which well-meaning people, “exercising the right to abide by one’s own conscience,” in the words of the post-meeting Vatican press release, might have different moral solutions to the same problem.
The remarks of Cardinal Georges Cottier, Dominican theologian emeritus of the papal household, published early last week, in which the Cardinal praised the president’s position in seeking a common ground “to reduce the number of women seeking abortion,” were an obvious Vatican-planned prelude to this result.
When President Barack Obama came calling on Pope Benedict XVI today, the two men enjoyed a “truly cordial” encounter, according to a Vatican spokesperson, but at the same time there was no diplomatic silence from the pontiff about their differences over abortion and other “life issues.”
Not only did Benedict press his pro-life case with his words to the president, but he even found a way to make the point with his gift, offering the president a copy of a recent Vatican document on bioethics. According to a Vatican spokesperson, the pope drew a repetition from Obama of his vow to bring down the actual abortion rate.
Beyond the life issues, the Vatican’s statement indicated that Benedict and Obama also found “general agreement” on the Middle East peace process and other regional situations. The two leaders also touched food security, development aid especially for Africa and Latin America, immigration and drug trafficking, according to the statement.
Coming away from the meeting, however, it was hard to escape the impression that Benedict wanted to use it to deliver a clear pro-life message.
When President Barack Obama stepped into the pope's private library in the Vatican July 10, he became only the 12th U.S. president to do so.
And while the Vatican has a protocol handbook governing visits by heads of state -- a handbook that covers everything, including the number of Swiss Guards and papal gentlemen in tails present -- the way each visit unfolds is determined by the schedules of the pope and his guest.
The fact that Obama came to the Vatican directly from the Group of Eight meeting in L'Aquila, Italy, and left immediately afterward to fly to Ghana meant timing was tight.
The time constraints meant the Vatican and the White House made no plans for an exchange of formal speeches -- an optional part of papal receptions of presidents.
But there is always time for an exchange of gifts.
The Baltimore province of the Redemptorists announced that it had given Obama a stole that had been placed on the remains of St. John Neumann, a 19th-century Redemptorist and the first male naturalized U.S. citizen to become a saint. Obama gave the stole to the pope.